I own many Macs. I’ve owned every Mac since 1984 with only a few exceptions. I own iMacs, laptops and desktops. I can use any computer I choose. I’ve decided to spend the next six months using only my new unibody 17-inch MacBookPro (and a new 24″ Apple Cinema Display) as my monitor for any and all photography work that I do.

That’s really the end of the review. For those who don’t have time to read the whole thing, it’s safe to assume I wouldn’t choose this combo if I didn’t think it was a great choice. But if you want the details, here they come.

The unibody Mac laptops are the newest innovation out of Cupertino. At first, I thought it was just marketing hype. But there is a definite difference in these machines. They’re smaller and lighter. Really. In fact, while writing the notes for this review a few weeks ago, I had both the last-gen 15″ MacBook Pro on my lap at the same time as I had the new 17″ MacBook Pro on my lap. The new 17″ isn’t much heavier than the 15″. That’s a real shock to me. It’s about a pound difference. How they managed to get all that extra screen real estate and power into something that compact must have taken some serious fairy dust!

I ordered the Cadillac version. 2.93 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 8 GB of 1067 MHz DDR3 RAM. And yes I got the glossy screen. Here’s why. I also got the new glossy Apple 24″ Cinema Display. It doesn’t make sense to me to have a glossy main monitor for editing photos but a matte finish on the smaller laptop. I wanted them to match. I only do serious editing on my large monitor. I use the small laptop monitor only for looking at images downloaded while in the field and I do that in my nice, dark hotel room, so no worries.

The one thing that you can’t understand about the glossy screen is that it is BRIGHT! I mean like the SUN BRIGHT. I put it next to my last-gen 15″ MacBookPro and was staggered by the difference. The new screen is so very bright that it literally overcomes much of the glare. There’s no way to explain this. You just have to see it for yourself. If you compare the two side-by-side, it’s VERY apparent. It’s not one of those deals where you need a special scientific test.

So for me the glossy is fine. I know, I know, many of you won’t like the glossy. So don’t buy it. Pay the extra money for the matte screen. You go your way and I’ll go mine. I’ve been using it for a month with ZERO problems.

The three USB ports are nice. There’s a Firewire 800 port, a network port, the MINI DVI for hooking up the new Cinema display and an express slot. I’m using the 320GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm. I wish there were still a Firewire 400 port.

Retail price as tested with monitor was $5416.00 plus sales tax. Shipping is free.

Now that’s spendy, I agree. But I wanted to create as close to the desktop experience as I could.

The kind of stuff I was interested in knowing about this machine may or may not interest you, but here goes.

1) Does it run hot? Mine doesn’t. In fact, it runs cooler than my 15 inch MacBookPro. Some people have complained of it being hot, but I am simply not experiencing that.

2) Battery life. Using the computer the way I use it, i.e., petal to the metal, I get about four and one half hours out of the battery. I haven’t run many tests so that’s not a solid number. It’s just a reference point. That’s more than enough for me for most uses.

3) Speed. There’s plenty. Aperture is my benchmark for speed. If a computer can run Aperture smoothly, then it has my respect. I’ve yet to see a spinning beach ball. Perhaps it’s the $1200 extra I spent for that second four GB of RAM, but whatever the reason, this thing is plenty quick. I don’t feel hamstrung at all. Now mind you, I’m not Alex Lindsay at Pixelcorps pulling down 1080P 4444 HD video either. But for a still photographers, there’s speed and power to spare.

4) New Multitouch touchpad works. They worked out any bugs that came with the original new button-less touch pad on the 15 inch MacBookPro Unibody. And I’ve mostly gotten used to not having a button to click – but I wish it was still there. Sorry Mr. Jobs. Call me old fashioned.

5) The keyboard is comfortable and responsibe.

6) Wi-fi reception is great.

7) I’ve had no problems whatsoever with the high-speed graphics chip.

I also want to mention the new 24″ Apple Cinema Display. I looked around at other displays, and while I wish this display had more connectivity options, in every other way I think it’s pretty much perfect. It profiles well. It’s got a wide color gamut. It’s breathtakingly beautiful to look at. It’s easier on my eyes. It’s got good color accuracy and the size is perfect for my old eyes. I have trouble seeing text on our old 30″ Cinema Displays. I really like this monitor and am spoiled by it. All you have to do is put this side-by-side with some of the other monitors in the price range and you’ll be convinced.

Back to the laptop: I’ve tested Photoshop CS4, Aperture and a host of photo plugins on the new laptop and all have performed very well. I am looking forward to the convenience of not having to sync up my calendars, address book, bookmarks etc., since everything is on the machine I use at work and carry back home or on the road. Hooked up to 16TB worth of storage on my four Drobos through the Firewire 800 port, I have all the storage I need at the office. Yet there’s still enough room on the native hard drive to store an Aperture Library for the purpose of shooting and archiving on the road. Then I can export all as a project and import into my main Library sitting on the Drobo when I get back to the office.

While this is an expensive solution, in my view, it’s worth it. I am very happy with the look, feel and performance of the new laptop and have no problem recommending it to photographers who are looking for a solution to taking care of their photo needs without running a desktop.



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